I spend a lot of time with church leaders. Sometimes we’re sharing a meal, sipping a coffee or sitting around a fire pit. Other times we’re digging deep into their life and leadership in a coaching session. While there are several studies out there about pastors I operate more from a relational space, qualitative research based on what I’m hearing from the trenches.
I’ve been in church ministry for a long time, and I’ve experienced many of these myself. Here are the top ten dangers I see church leaders wrestling through today in no particular order.
Overwhelm. The sheer busyness of life, expectations from a congregation to be good at so many things and the ever-present pressure of “Sunday’s coming” lead to a general sense of overwhelm for church leaders.
Urgency. Pastors are more connected than ever, and often this opens channels for congregants to contact them through various methods with their emergency (or often their perceived emergency). Everything seems to need their immediate attention. This pushes the urgent to the top of the list while the important easily falls to the bottom. This is often the first thing we deal with during coaching.
Information overload. There is so much information today that we’ve all learned more than we can apply. Neil Cole says, “We’ve been educated beyond our obedience”. We know more than we can possibly do, so it’s hard to know what our next step should be.
Isolation. Pastoring can be lonely. Loneliness is a feeling, but isolation is a choice. Yes, there are spiritual burdens people might not understand, but isolating yourself can be destructive. Find friends! Get a coach! Share the weight of ministry with other friends or pastors!
Fatigue. Pastors are tired more than they realize. They are processing a lot of big changes today, and that takes a toll emotionally, relationally, spiritually and mentally. This is one of the reasons why our Stay Forth team continues to call for a return to receiving the gift of sabbath.
Reactivity. Living reactively leads to the feeling of always being behind. Many pastors aren’t scheduling their priorities (we call them “the big rocks”) and they are letting the week unfold and determine what they’re going to do. This leaves man church leaders feeling behind, reacting to their life instead of planning and executing it.
Complexity. Life, leadership, and ministry are increasingly complex. The rise of outrage, technology, loneliness, and mental illness continue to make our lives and relationships serious challenges. The age of “business as usual” ministry is done, and church leaders must be able to lead through complicated issues instead of running from them.
Impact idolatry. The desire to chase greater impact outside and inside the church continues to grow. Many pastors feel they must have a massive impact as a writer, city catalyst or network leader. It has become harder for us to believe faithfulness is enough. This chasing of impact is why we began to focus on health before impact and workmanship before works.
Shifting roles. Pastors roles seem increasingly serious with trauma and new challenges resting heavy on their shoulders. Pastors can no longer be cruise directors and emcees; they are missionaries in a foreign land and medics on a battlefield.
Burnout. Many leaders are fatigued physically, relationally, emotionally and spiritually right now. If church leaders cannot stay healthy their bodies, minds and hearts will take a break or end up with sickness of body, mind or soul.